Origin of Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs come from South America , and more precisely from the Andean region. So they inhabited the area of current Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. They were domesticated by Incas. Guinea pigs were bred for meat and for medical purpose. Currently, wild pigs are rare, although it is still possible to observe them in the Andes area. In southern America guinea pigs are still bred for food. If you go to Peru, where guinea pigs are particularly popular, avoid dishes, containing the word cavia in their name (guinea pig in latin is cavia porcellus) in restaurants. 

Wild guinea pigs aren’t divided into races – people after domesticating them, bred a few breeds. Wild pigs have short, smooth fur in one colour – grey-brown colouration called aguti. They are better built than domesticated pigs. They have stronger and longer limbs. Domesticated pigs are squat and less agile than their wild ancestors. 

 

Guinea pigs were brought to Europe in the 16th century. They became popular very quickly. From the beginning they were used as domestic animals, later also as laboratory animals, but they were supplanted by mice and rats, which reproduce much better. 

Taming a Guinea Pig

After bringing home a new guinea pig, you should give it a few days to get used to new surroundings.

It happens that on the first days the pig doesn’t want to eat, but you should not worry, it finally starts to eat. It won’t take long, and the pig won’t be afraid anymore, especially when it will associate your smell with food. 

On the first days don’t take it out from the cage too often, but after few days (about one week) start to do it – pigs love being held. They are gregarious animals and if you have one piggy, you should provide it a lot of companionship. 

It would be better, if you decide to get two piggies. It would be great, if they already knew each other and were accustomed to one another. Even females, if they are strangers, may be aggressive to each other… and fight. Females have a reputation of being very friendly. I also thought so, but recently I’ve changed my mind. A fight of two females might be extremely brutal, even plucking fur is possible. 

Guinea pigs are quite intelligent. They are attached to their owners and like to be taken out of the cage.

At the beginning young piggies may bite and try to break free. They need at least few weeks to calm down. Aggressive and whiny pigs are rare, and if you get such one, there’s nothing you can do about it. 

You Should Know, How to Hold a Guinea Pig Correctly

Put one hand under its chest and front paws, and then put your other hand under its rear paws.

Never let a piggy jump from your hands into the cage. It can hurt itself very badly, or even break a paw. 

Guinea Pig Communication

Guinea Pig Sounds

Purring – It’s a happy sound. Pigs can make this sound in three        situations: during the copulation, while eating favourite treats, while being pet.

Wheeking – Pigs show their needs by making this sound:
– Calling other piggies;
– Demanding food (during feeding or when they hear characteristic sounds or smell);
– Demanding the attention. A pig could start wheeking, when it is ignored for a moment, while sitting on its owner’s lap. If in spite of stroking the piggy doesn’t stop wheeking, it means that it is calling other piggies and wants to come back to its friend in the cage.

Whining – Can mean dissatisfaction. Howeverthere are so-called grumblers, which make this sound very often, without a serious reason. Some pigs are whining when they try to tell us to put then back to the cage, because they need to pee. If a pig stretches on your lap and is whining in the same time, that means the pig is a grumbler.

Mutter – means satisfaction. The sound is made during petting, exploring a flat/house or eating. 

Silent whimpering – medium satisfaction. 

Shrieking – a cry for help and a reaction to pain. None of our piggies have never had a reason for making this sound. It resembles a loud and long whistle. 

Teeth chattering – indication of aggression. The sound isn’t made often towards people, but very frequent towards stranger piggies. It’s similar to grinding of teeth. When a piggy has an aggressive purpose it is bristling and squinting its eyes. 

Chirping  the most mysterious sound. It is like a singing bird – you may think you have a canary at home. Mostly females make this sound, very rarely and mainly at night. There are several theories regarding the reason why guinea pigs make this sound (loneliness, feeling scared or a mating call). In my opinion none of them make any sense. The mating call would be a good explanation, if pigs of opposite sex reacted to it – but they don’t. The singing piggy seems to do it just for itself and it doesn’t like to be observed during singing. The pig usually stops singing when it sees its owner…..but it’s not a rule.
 

Body Language 

 
Biting – guinea pigs don’t bite hard their owners, even when they are very mad. They can bite fingers gently, but it isn’t aggressive. In extreme cases, pig “catches” a finger with its teeth in a way that resembles biting. So the “bite” is painless and doesn’t leave marks on the skin. That kind of biting is only information, that the piggy is upset. It shows the intelligence of guinea pigs – a savage piggy is able to bite almost to the bone. Guinea pigs have very strong jaws.

However,guinea pigs are eager to bite clothes. Pigs do it with great determination and they are able to destroy the most expensive shirt 🙂 

Chewing the cage – it may be caused by frustration, when a piggy sees or hears somebody who prepares food for it. Sometimes guinea pigs do it without any reason.
 
 
Scratching  A piggy scratches when something is itching it 🙂
 
Cleaning – A pig cleans its snout with its front paws (as a hamster) or a tummy with its mouth. 
 
Licking – there are a few theories explaining why do guinea pigs lick fingers. A claim that human skin contains substances (for example: salt), which are components of guinea pigs diet. 
Personally I agree with view, which proclaims emotional character of this behaviour. A pig licks your fingers when:
– it wants to reciprocate caresses and to tell you it loves you
,
– i
t wants to apologise you – for example: when it bites you by mistake,
– it wants to get to know somebody. Some piggies lick fingers of strangers, but only very friendly guinea pigs do it.
 
Freezing in place – It’s a sign of fear. The piggy stands still on straight paws. Don’t confuse this position with lying down to sleep, when the pig is sitting on its paws or is stretching out.

Stretching out – Piglets stretch out, when they are petted, while they are asleep or relaxing.

Running and jumping up – it is a form of fun for little piggies. It can have an interactive character – the pig can play with other little piggies. Pigs chase each other and nudge one another with snouts. Adult pigs don’t play like that.

Fight – Males can fight for females. Females fights are caused mostly by territorial claims during pregnancy (a pregnant pig should have its own accommodation). They are able to bite the opponent quite hard and the human, who tries to separate them may be also bitten. 
 
Conciliatory position – when piggies try to get to know each other, they can be a little bit aggressive, but they usually reach an agreement quickly. If the piggy stands on straight paws with highly raised snout, it means the pig wants to make friends with other piggy.

Breaking free – little piggies struggle more often than adult ones. Very energetic pigs often try to break free from their owners’ hands, without a reason. This kind of a piggy doesn’t want to sit calm on your hands. Some piggies are struggling even 
 
Yawning a guinea pig yawns for the same reasons that people do.

Equipment

Before you decide to buy a guinea pig, you must already have a cage at home. One pig should have at least a one square meter of space. The pig’s cage should not be painted (choose a galvanized cage) or made of wood, because wood absorbs humidity.

1. A Wooden House – It Provides Shelter and is Used as A Teether. 

Although wood absorbs urine, a house can be made of this material. It should have a flat roof, so that pigs can sit on itSome pigs spend a lot of time sitting on the roof. It may happen, that your pig piss in the corners of the house. When it happens the house smells bad and it doesn’t look nice. You should wash it or, in an extreme case, exchange it. We recommend a stone flower pot as a house for the piggy. It has a flat roof and doesn’t absorb humidity.

2. A water bottle 

We don’t advise to give pigs water in a bowl. They will turn it over quickly, and you will be forced to do an extra cleaning. The water bottle eliminates this problem, although it might happen that you buy a defective one. You should check whether water is leaking from it. The leaky water bottle will wet bedding. You may mistakenly think your piggy started to pee more. The water bottle should be the first thing you check, when the bedding in the cage is too wet.

3. A Hay Rack 

It is necessary in the cage. Don’t put hay for the piggy directly on the bedding. Your pig may pee on it, and wetted hayis not only wasted but smells quitebad. Additionally, climbing and searching for treats is a great entertainment for a piglet.

4. A Feeding Bowl 

Choose bowls with a broad base, so that pigs can’t knock them over (some pigs do it on purpose, so that they can look for the best bits easier). Bowls made of plastic are better of course than wooden ones, because a pig might pee in a bowl.

5. Wood Shavings, Wood Pellets or Fleecebedding. 

Wood shavings are the most popular type of bedding, but they are not very absorbent, so you have to clean quite often. Wood pellets are better in this matter, but they are less comfortable for your pet. A combinations of these two kinds of bedding is a good solution. You can put some pellets in the spots in which your guinea pig pees the most, and shavings in the other parts of the cage.
The fleece is very comfortable – soft and absorbent. It’s less expensive than wood shavings and pellets, because it’s reusable.

Additionally Buy a Guinea Pig Carrier.

Don’t buy a litter tray. Piglets are usually peeing in corners of the cage, but it’s not a rule. They are even able to move their house, when they want to organize the toilet for themselves behind it. 

 

Personality

Guinea pigs are known as docile and nice animals, which basically is true, although you have to remember that they have very strong personality. 

Piglets are very curious animals. They love to explore and they are quite brave. A pig may go to unknown dangerous place, after being put on the floor, so remember to make sure the surroundings is safe for it. Pigs rather don’t bite cables, but they love to chew carpets. It will pee everywhere it wants. If your pig notices you are angry, next time it will pee in a corner, so that nobody can see it (pig’s urine can damage floor varnish).

Guinea pigs are quite intelligent. Some people even teach their piggies tricks, I don’t do it. 

Some pigs respond to their name. They also can react to specific sounds, connected with preparing food (for example: sound of running water). 

It is possible to play with the little piggy. For example: some piggies like to bite a string stretched horizontally. Most piggies like to be taken out of the cage, but they aren’t always in mood for it. When a pig doesn’t want to leave the cage, it will run into its house. An untamed piggy always runs away. 

Pigs demand caresses and like to “tour” their owner’s body. Glasses are fascinating for them. Pigs lick fingers and unfortunately they bite clothes. 

It is important to get to know your piggy, which usually tries to communicate with you. Some pigs warn when they want to pee. They can signal it by whining or squirming. 

Aggressive guinea pigs are very hard to find. Aggression is usually caused by a lack of domestication. Feral pigs can even bite to blood. Tamed pigs don’t bite so hard. If a guinea pig is treated well, it won’t bite her owner, but will show dissatisfaction with whining and trying to break free.